Judge Sets Stage for Release of Grand Jury Records to Christie Whistleblower

“This is a case that is three years old,” Hurd said. “I want it to get it going, because justice is served by having cases getting to juries sooner rather than later.”

The case has already proven expensive, even at this relatively early stage. Barlyn says the private law firm representing the state, Gibbons P.C., has billed over $800,000 for its work so far, according to invoices he obtained through public records requests.

The lawyers for the state say they want to protect the secrecy of the grand jury process to avoid the “chilling effect” a decision to release the materials would have on witnesses in future grand jury investigations. Barlyn, meanwhile, says the state has gone to great lengths to prevent disclosure of the jury records because their release will show that administration officials acted illegally when they moved to withdraw the indictments for political reasons.

It was not clear if Attorney General John Hoffman’s office will agree to the new protective order. When a lower court judge previously ordered the release of the grand jury transcripts and exhibits to Barlyn, the state appealed. The appeals court decided last year that Barlyn had not demonstrated that his need for the materials trumped grand jury secrecy, and sent the case back to Superior Court.

Hurd scheduled a conference call with the lawyers for May 5. Lawyers on both sides declined to comment after the hearing.

Barlyn was fired five years ago after he complained that the withdrawal of the indictments of Republican Hunterdon County Sheriff Deborah Trout, Undersheriff Michael Russo and former sheriff’s Investigator John Falat Jr. was politically motivated.

The three officials had been indicted in May 2010 on a combined 43 counts of official misconduct, including failure to conduct proper background checks, forcing employees to sign loyalty oaths, and making a false law enforcement badge for Robert Hariri, a prominent Christie donor and CEO at Celgene Cellular Therapeutics.

But Attorney General Paula Dow, who Christie had appointed after taking office earlier that year, ordered a review of the indictments. Her office said it found “legal and factual deficiencies” in the charges and in August 2010 a judge agreed to dismiss them. Barlyn alleges that Hariri’s political connections or Trout’s friendship with Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, whose campaign she supported in 2009, led to the dismissal.

Do you like this post?

Be the first to comment